Hearing so much about the Morgaza Spillway lately has resonated with be because I have driven across it many times, as recently as this past Easter, mostly to visit relatives in Avoyelles Parish. Morganza is more than a floodgate to me but a link to my roots. A few thoughts:
•Some residents of the area used to refer to the span that crosses the spillway as the tick-tock bridge. That is because it is built in sections with each having medal connections. During the hot months the connections expand creating a slight bump. The thing to do, at least it was among my relatives, was to try to count the bumps. (Drivers of cars with really good shock absorbers were at a disadvantage in this pursuit.) I have tried to count the bumps many times— though at 65 mph (well, maybe 70 mph) the bumps come pretty fast. My count has usually been around 130. I suppose I could look up the number somewhere but that wouldn’t be sporting. The counting was not always easy. Once I came up with 133, the other person in my car said “26.”
•After the Great Flood of 1927 many of the streams in Louisiana, which once ran wild, were dramatically tamed. Bayou desGlaises, for example, which runs through Avoyelles Parish, formerly carried boats piloted by vendors selling goods to people along the shore. After the flood it was contained with locks and is now a docile stream subject to algae. The Red River, Old River (an offshoot of the Rd) and the Atchafalaya were also tinkered with so that floods could be controlled at a structure called the Old River locks near Angola. The Morganza spillway is the outlet, sending water that might have flooded the central part of the state plus New Orleans and Baton Rouge on a different path to the gulf. The system is a product of 1950s technology but is brilliant. Without its security, New Orleans and Baton Rouge would be dying cities.
•Heading north, Louisiana Highway 1 crosses the spillway at the town of Morganza. The town became a counter-culture symbol in the 1970s as the place where the famous café scene in the movie “Easy Rider” was filmed. The scene tried to capsulate the global conflict between Hippies and Rednecks. Morganza has been reluctant to recognize the celebrity status that the film brought it, though last year the town council did agree to a street marker acknowledging the film. Where the café was is now an empty lot. Nothing that has ever happen in Morganza is as important as the spillway opening. Forget the hippies and rednecks, this time the conflict is the classic one of man versus high water.
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